The Party Bus is Coming
Deja vu = the phenomenon of having the strong sensation that an event or experience currently being experienced had been experienced in the past.
Stupidity = a lack of intelligence, understanding, reason, wit, or sense
Read below and you be the judge. Déjà vu or stupidity.
St Petersburg Station. Russia
Yonatan and Ash get set to board the train to Helsinki when they realise they can’t find their tickets. Panic ensues for the next twenty minutes, as they madly race around, trying to track anyone in Russia who can speak English and help them out. Confusion reigns as they dash backwards and forwards with no plan, much like headless chickens, frantically trying to get new tickets. Nothing is sorted until just as the train pulls away, still ticketless; they throw their bags, jump on board and hope for the best.
Bus Stop in Taganga. Colombia
Yonatan and Ash get set to board the bus to Cartagena when they realise they can’t find their tickets. Panic ensues for the next twenty minutes, as they madly race around, trying to track anyone in Colombia who can speak English and help them out. Confusion reigns as they dash backwards and forwards with no plan, much like headless chickens, frantically trying to get new tickets. Nothing is sorted until as the bus arrives, still ticketless; they throw their bags on, jump on board and hope for the best.
For such avid travellers we sure are stupid. Or maybe just haunted by déjà vu.
Fortunately for both of us, and the readers of this blog we made it to Cartagena, a beautiful colonial city on the Caribbean coast of Colombia. We had heard many good things about this city and had high expectations. (Not high enough obviously, to remember our bus tickets though). We were at once impressed with Cartagena – the colonial style architecture, cobble stoned streets, beautiful people and little markets. As its located on the northern coast, Cartagena experiences fantastic sunsets and our first experience of this was along the city walls. Nothing beats the colourful hues of the setting sun, and the sunset on this evening was no exception. We admired natures showcase. Pink, orange, yellow, red- there were many shades casting across the horizon and reflecting off the Caribbean Sea. Having experienced such a great introduction to the city we set out to explore the nightlife.
We had been told that one of the “must do” experiences in Cartagena was the Chiva Party Bus. This was a bus that allowed drinking, dancing and other fun activities as it drove around the streets of Cartagena. Thinking this was a good way to get an orientation of the city and meet fun people we eagerly signed up for it. What the marketing spiel failed to mention was that it was a “must do” experience for all those over the age of 100.
The experience got off to a bad start, when our now standard lack of planning caused us to miss the start time. No problem, we rang the Chiva Party Bus and they advised us to taxi to a meeting point where we could join the “must do” experience. We flagged down a cab and went to the designated meeting spot where we were told to ask for Carlos. We got out and asked around for Carlos and as fate would have it about 10 guys all came forward claiming to be him, to know him or want to meet him. Yet again confusion reigned (sense a pattern?) and we tried to sort out the wheat from the chaff or the Carlos ‘ from the non Carlos’. (side note- what is a group of Carlos’s called?) Eventually one of them herded us onto a bus. An empty bus which looked as much like a party bus as my local school bus. Actually probably less so. Had we been scammed by a fake Carlos?
We got on this empty bus and wondered if “Carlos” had just taken our money and gone. Soon 3 musicians got on board and sat behind us and started playing. Banging drums and other wooden instruments they were loud if not overly talented. I guess let the party begin. The next hour was spent driving around the streets of Cartagena looking for other party goers. There were 3 distinct demographics that boarded the bus.
Party Bus Demographic Breakdown
- The elderly.
When we first picked up people, we were shocked to find them carrying walking sticks and struggling to get onto the bus. This is the party crew? Tonight we’re gonna party likes its 1899.
As the cast of Cocoon started filling our bus we asked the driver if any young people would be boarding. He assured us there would be. And he was soon right- we started picking up families with young children. Whilst it lowered the average age of the bus down significantly it wasn’t quite what we had in mind.
- Cool, confused gringos
This consisted of just the two of us. The only non South Americans on board. And the only two who thought the party bus would be full of young people wanting to party with us.
After some time sulking and head scratching we decided to embrace the circumstances. This was made easier when they brought out the bottles of Aguardiente- the local liquor, which is similar to ouzo. With the liquor flowing and the percussion in full swing it actually turned out to be quite fun. It happened there was a fleet of party buses and after a couple of hours all the buses met up in a central spot outside a club.
The music of Colombia is reggaetón- a music I was unfamiliar with prior to my trip. Its quite infectious and the Colombians love dancing to it. With their bodies moving to the beat of the music its quite a show to be in a Colombian club. Whilst back home, dancing with someone else is often seen as a form of “picking up”, here it’s just seen as an activity. I was standing and watching the dancers, when a local approached me and asked me to dance. I was hesitant (mainly due to my poor dancing skills) but she offered to teach me. This was an innocent gesture and one that became common over the next two weeks. The Colombian’s really love to dance and want everyone to experience it.
And so with my new dance instructor teaching me the moves and with me ignoring her instructions and creating my own moves the night was great fun. We were mixing with the locals and felt connected to the Cartagena nightlife. We got salsa lessons (hint- aguardiente doesn’t improve dancing skills) and worked on our Spanish (hint- aguardiente doesn’t improve Spanish skills). In all it was a fun night. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend the Cartagena Party Bus- however I would definitely recommend heading to a Colombian club and having some aguardiente. Muy Bueno.
Footnote. Whilst packing my bag on the last day of the trip to head back to Australia I found the bus tickets to Cartagena. The St Petersburg tickets have never been found.